Rhapsody of Death

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Chapter 28

“Are you still with me Qu-Kai? It’s kind of a convoluted tale to tell but, I want to make sure I don’t leave anything out. It would be too exhausting to do it over.”

“Yeah, I think I understand. But, I think you are about to get to the real meat of the story. I can’t wait to hear how it ends.”

“I have to rest for just a little bit. I’m out of breath.”

“Out of breath? Ghosts don’t breathe!”

“I know, just a figure of speech. I haven’t learned the ghost words for what I feel so I can only describe it in human terms. At any rate, I think I can finish now.”

“Minister Yun-Sheng explained that the WRA had been working on a new flood control system which was now ready for pilot testing. Director Liao from Engineering and Technology designed the software required for automated control of the pumping stations and the reservoir and flood control gate systems. The application also included flood forecasting and early warning alert systems.

“Unit testing of the mechanical systems had been completed manually. The next phase of testing required computer hardware to interface the software with the flood control system components. As required by government procedure, the contracts for supplying the computer hardware would be opened for bidding. The contract bid review committee made a decision to schedule a bidder’s conference for two months from now but didn’t widely publicize it. The notification was only available on the government web site.”

Qian, this is a big opportunity for you. The central WRA committee is planning a complete renovation of all the pumping stations in Taiwan. The local governments are providing the funding but the central committee is controlling the contract awards and disbursement of funds. Thousands of computers will be needed to complete the project and when I first heard of it, I immediately thought of Yin-Yang Electronics. Don’t say I’m not looking out for you!

Thank you very much. I truly appreciate your consideration and if there is anything I can do for you just let me know and I will comply if possible.

“Off to the side congressman Yen gave my partner a tacit wink which I didn’t fully understand until later when Yang stopped into my office to discuss how to handle the bidding.”

Qian, if we are going to win these contracts for the pumping stations, I think we need to do some favors for Congressman Yen. After all, he is taking care of a lot of details for us to help streamline the bidding process. Without his influence and help, I don’t think we can succeed.

I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at. Why don’t you stop beating around the bush and say exactly what you mean?

A couple of days ago, I was chatting with Zhang and he informed me that the ministers and the WRA have plans to send a delegation to Japan for ten days to survey their water control stations. I think that if we ensure that they have an exceptionally pleasant trip, our chances of winning the pumping station bids will be drastically improved.

How can we get involved? Aren’t these trips under the control of the government? They have certain procedures that must be followed.

My God Qian, don’t be so naive. The government won’t approve funds to take their families with them and besides, the inspection tours will only take two days at the most. What do you suggest they do for the rest of the trip?

They are taking their families with? What the hell are they going to do while the delegation is touring the pumping stations?

I’m not suggesting that we plan their itinerary for them; just cover their extra expenses.

When are they planning to go? I’ll run the numbers to see how much it will cost and if I agree, I’ll have Huai make the arrangements.

“After Yang left, I was feeling apprehensive about what we were getting the company involved in and wondered if it was really a wise thing to do. I sat on the couch for quite a while pondering all the implications to see if I could put it into perspective. In the past, Yin-Yang had rewarded certain government officials for assisting them in securing contracts. But, the money was always paid after the jobs were complete and was based on a percentage of profits. Now, we were going to lay out a substantial amount of cash without having received a contract and with no guarantee we would get one.

“And why was Yang so cavalier about handing over handfuls of cash to a bunch of legitimized crooks? They would not be obligated to return any favors. I didn’t believe that Yang was so dense that he couldn’t grasp the high risk of this plan. He must have had some other leverage I didn’t know about. What could it be?

“Illicit dealings with bureaucrats are like sliding down a slippery slide. Once you start there’s no stopping until you get to the bottom. With a slight chill in my heart, I picked up the phone and called Huai to explain what we needed to do. Knowing that if we won the contract we would easily recover this money made me feel a little more comfortable. But this would be the last time I would collaborate with any government officials to win contracts.

“After the delegation returned from Japan, Minister Lin and Congressman Zhang called me and wanted us to meet again at the guest house. They gave me a list of all the voting members on the contract bid award committee and instructed me to give each one of them a cash payment to buy their votes. As expected, the committee selected Yin-Yang as the winning bidder for the pumping station computer hardware.

“Then, a few months later Minister Lin called again requesting a private meeting between the two of us. Since the beginning of this project, I had learned how greedy the government officials can be and how they never quit coming back for more. I was a bit apprehensive about this call because Yun-Sheng had never requested a private meeting before and I suspected this wouldn’t be pleasant for me. But I dismissed it for the moment because there wasn’t anything I could do to prepare for it.

“I greeted Yun-Sheng and had him sit down to relax while I made a couple of martinis. As we sipped on our drinks, Yun-Sheng started the conversation with a little polite small talk.”

Well, Qian, I have to thank you for all the effort you put in to make our delegation to Japan comfortable and well entertained. And of course, the great media coverage gave our oversight committee a very good impression of our success. By the way, congratulations on winning the pumping station computer equipment contract.

“Of course, I could sense that this was just preliminary bullshit leading up to the real reason for the meeting and I didn’t have to wait very to prove that my hunch was right.”

I know your time is valuable, so I’ll get right to the point. I made sure that Yin-Yang got the contract for the entire pumping station project. 700 million is a pretty big deal and we could have easily broken it into several contracts. I put a lot of effort into this and it’s not over. I still have to deal with the local governments to make sure the funds get released without any delays and I have a lot of other reports to submit and other officials to coordinate with. The other projects we cooperated on in the past were peanuts compared to this. I think you can understand where I’m coming from.

“I knew what was coming now and I didn’t like it. I could barely hold back my temper”

Do you mean...

It’s very simple. I want 10% of your profit. I think it’s safe to assume that you’ll make at least 30% on the contract. You do the math. 3% on the 700 million leaves 21 million for me.

Like in the past, we will try to oblige your requests. But I don’t think we can make 30% on this project. In fact, there are many costs we incurred to get this bid. Like the expenses paid to your delegation to Japan and the bribes we paid the committee members. In addition to that, the actual development costs are only estimates and could be much higher than we budgeted for. And, who knows what difficulties we may encounter dealing with the local governments.

Are you implying that I don’t have the power and political influence to deal with them?

I wasn’t implying anything of the sort. But you know that there are always unforeseen glitches in any project and I don’t think 30% profit is a valid estimate.

I know you and Yang are the two major share holders in your company with billions of net worth. Are you telling me that 20 million is a problem? You’ve got to be kidding me!

If you don’t get too greedy, we are willing to cooperate. But, I won’t agree to pay you more than 3 million extra. If you can agree to that figure, we have no more to talk about.

3 million! You treat me like a beggar! You can’t get rid of me for that paltry sum. You don’t know how powerful I am. I arranged for you to win the contract. I can just as easily find a reason to take it away.

I repeat, we cherish the opportunity to work with you so I hope you can make some concessions on this issue. I wouldn’t want to see us lock horns over this. Otherwise, because we have collaborated for so long there will sooner or later be clues that might be found out by the media or your opponents that will be very unfavorable for you. After all, we are in the same boat. Wouldn’t you say?

Are you threatening me?

Take it any way you wish. I’m just reminding you that our futures are somewhat intertwined.

What exactly do you have to hold over me? What’s your ace in the hole?

This drink we are having is a martini but did you know this particular recipe is called the Montgomery, after the British general that would not attack unless he outnumbered his enemy 15:1. He made sure he had the power advantage before he attacked; wise man. Anyway, It was so named by Ernest Hemingway because he thought that 15:1 was the perfect ratio of gin to vermouth to make perfect one of his favorite drinks.

“At this point I sensed he was feeling a little intimidated and I wanted to subdue him once and for all. So, I bluffed him into thinking I had some evidence to use against him”

Do you think that the details of our conversations will never be known by anyone else? I have dealt with you government officials enough to be able to predict what you will do to get more money. So, today’s meeting turned out pretty much the way I expected. The technology available today is incredible and as long as you are willing to pay for it, virtually any kind of surveillance is possible. But, your decision is not urgent. Go home and think it over. If you agree with my offer, we can continue our partnership as if nothing ever happened.

“I could see now that he was totally whipped but I couldn’t leave without giving him a parting shot”

I have to leave for a meeting now but you can finish your drink if you like. Be sure to close the door when you leave and don’t let it hit you in the ass on your way out!

At that moment, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. They were all looking for non existent evidence. When he had threatened the minister with a bluff by implying that their conversation was being recorded, he never imagined that it would mushroom into such a big issue. He smiled at the thought of how ridiculous it was for them to be scrambling around in fear, chasing a phantom tape.

His amusement didn’t last for long as Qu-Kai, finally understanding the entire sequence of events leading up to Qian’s death, blurted out, “Haven’t you ever wondered what caused your death?”

Qian, staring at his nephew, recalled what he had related to Yun-Sheng during their video call and he suddenly froze at the realization that his nephew may have been responsible for his death. Then, an anger started to well up inside him.

He now urgently wanted to find the documents that Qin-Yao had obtained in order to collect his death insurance benefit. With an intense determined expression on his face, he quickly passed through the wall of Shan-Wei’s bedroom into the next room. Qu-Kai, not understanding why Qian’s mood had changed so quickly or where he was going hurried behind him and caught up to him in a dark room that appeared to be the study.

Qian was standing in front of a desk furiously digging thorough documents, scattering them helter-skelter to the floor. He finally stopped, speechless, transfixed on a paper he was grasping tightly in his hand.

Qu-Kai moved in to peer over his shoulder for a closer look. The document was Qian’s death certificate. Cause of death was listed as Cardiogenic Shock with supplemental notes that CPR had been unsuccessfully administered at the scene of the accident and the body had suffered severe contusions and lacerations.

His recent physical exam had not indicated any evidence of a cardiovascular disorder so he was confused as to how this condition could develop so quickly. Then his thoughts raced back to the afternoon of his death. He had drunk a cup of coffee that Shan-Wei had prepared for him before leaving the office for a meeting. While en route, he had read the newspaper to relax and afterward, on the way back to the office, he had just instructed Huai-Yuan to stop for some special dumplings when he suddenly began sweating, his head became congested and his body began to twitch involuntarily.

Huai-Yuan saw in the mirror that Qian was not looking normal and jerked his head around. “Yin Dong! You don’t look well. Do you want to go to the hospital?” Not waiting for a reply, he turned his head to the front in a panic and made a left turn to get to the emergency room. At that moment another car violently slammed into the side of the limo. And that’s the last thing he could remember.

Now it became clear why his dedicated assistant did not attend his funeral. He was in the hospital. And now his nephew, who drugged him for his own benefit, blithely accepted that the cause of death was the car accident; in denial of culpability either out of ignorance or denial of responsibility. Either way, he thought of Qian’s death as a gift that dropped out of the sky so that his family could now inherit a rightful share of Yin-Yang Electronics.

This callous attitude threw Qian into an intense rage and as his anger intensified, wisps of red vapor from all corners of the room gravitated toward him, coalescing in front of him. The energy they contained was so powerful that it shattered the glass on the front of the bookcase.

Hearing the breaking glass, his brother’s family rushed into the room and turned on the lights. At first all seemed to have calmed down and the scattered papers and broken glass made it look like thieves had broken into the house. Then they noticed a single piece of paper suspended in mid air which slowly floated to the ground. As they moved forward they recognized it as Qian’s death certificate and stooped down to pick it up. But the paper kept sliding away from them just out of reach and now they became frightened; not understanding how this could happen.

In front of him were three greedy scheming relatives and one of them responsible for his death. Now his anger surged out of control, becoming so consuming that he forgot all about collecting his souls. All he could think of was to somehow castigate them. The lights in the room began to flicker and he moved to the desk and scattered everything on the top onto the floor. The three were shaking with fright at the sight of objects mysteriously flying through the air.

Qu-Kai observed that as Qian grew angrier the red vapors became denser until they solidified into a human shape resembling his friend. He guessed this must be one of Qian’s lost souls, presumably anger, and quickly moved to capture it in the hulu gourd that they had received from Ye Lou-Wang.

With the room lights still flickering violently, Yin Mo-Xiu gathered his family and they all ran from the house, scared out of their wits. They then drove to a motel in Taipei to stay for the night, not daring to go home.

Even though they had captured the anger soul, Qian was still extremely agitated. When he saw the three fleeing from the house, he tried to pursue them but Qu-Kai blocked his path.

“I know you are angry but now is not the time. We have a limited amount of days to recover your other six souls so we have to stay focused. We will have time to deal with the others later when our mission is complete.”

This seemed to calm Qian down a little to the point where he seemed almost rational and he agreed that they should return to his house to plan their next move. But, when Qu-Kai turned to leave he noticed that Qian remained standing there pensively, without making a move to go with him.

“What are you feeling now? What are you pondering so seriously?”

With anger building inside him again Qian replied to his query. “I know that we have accomplished an important milestone by finding and capturing my first lost soul and I should be excited and happy. But I can’t forget what happened in this room and now I have intense homicidal emotions that I can scarcely control.”

“You want to kill someone?”

“I want to kill all three of them!”

“I can understand you wanting to kill your nephew and his mother but, why would you want to kill your brother?”

Qian stood silent for a minute before he answered. “I can’t really answer that right now. My emotions are very complicated.” He glanced at a family portrait on the coffee table and then continued. “All I can tell you is that I despise Qin-Yao more than any other person alive.”

“I thought you would hate your competitors, your partner or the corrupt politicians extorting money from you. Why do you hate her so?”

“Hate her? What I feel is beyond hate. I can’t even be in the same room with her and breathe the same air!”

Qu-Kai suddenly recalled the life events list that Qian had prepared where after the heading of ‘Hatred’ were written three words; Cui Qin-Yao.

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